The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable Decries the Ban on Use of Federal Funds for Syringe Exchange

 
 
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The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) condemns the imposition of a ban on use of federal funds for syringe exchange in the omnibus spending bill. The FY 2012 omnibus, passed today in the House and expected to pass in the Senate tomorrow, reinstates a complete ban on use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs. This reversal of federal policy represents a huge step backwardin the fight to eliminate hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses, despite numerous studies demonstrating that access to sterile syringes reduces the incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis.

Access to sterile syringes a cost effective life saving measure, and syringe exchange programs also connect people who use drugs to substance use treatment and medical care. “For two years, since the original lifting of the ban, syringe exchange programs around the country have worked closely with local law enforcement and health officials to make syringe access a part of their communities’ HIV and viral hepatitis prevention strategies,” said Daniel Raymond, chair of NVHR and policy director for the Harm Reduction Coalition in New York City. “In a year when the Department of Health and Human Services’Viral Hepatitis Action Plan endorsed syringe access as a cornerstone of viral hepatitis prevention, this terrible setback will result in new infections and increased medical costs.”

“We cannot afford to ignore the evidence and turn back the clock on disease prevention, at a time when many parts of the country – particularly in rural and suburban areas – are reporting rising hepatitis C rates among adolescents and young adults,” Raymond continued. “NVHR will continue to fight for syringe exchange and all of the public health tools and strategies needed to prevent a new wave of infections among the next generation of injection drug users. We call upon Congress and the Administration to move swiftly to reverse this damaging policy.”

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable is a coalition of public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity and mortality from viral hepatitis in the United States.